Out on a Limb
A Monthly Newsletter from Martha Clark Scala
Invest in bringing joy back to your life.
December 2010
Welcome to Out on a Limb, a monthly newsletter from Martha Clark Scala. This free e-zine is meant to invite and inspire you to maximize the joy in your life.

Shoulds are a Killjoy

Holiday-time evokes a lot of should-talk:

“I should go to that party because so-and-so will be upset with me if I don’t.”
      “We should scour this house before the in-laws arrive.”
             “She should show more gratitude for the gifts she has gotten.”
                   “They should get their act together and arrive on time.”

Sound familiar? The image of someone wagging their index finger at another person (or themselves) comes to mind. If only we could eliminate this word from all dictionaries! When we allow our lives to be dictated by shoulds – either our own or those that others impose on us – our joy meter tumbles fast. When we don’t do what we or someone else expresses to us as a should, we feel bad. When we feel bad, guilt or shame are usually lurking in the shadows and joy is out of sight.

There are ramifications if we do follow through on a should, too. Let’s say you go to that party you didn’t really want to go to: you may end up feeling annoyed with yourself, or the same emotion may be directed towards the host, or the person who “should-ed” you. Annoyance often leads to resentment, and once again, joy gets more and more out of reach.

So what is the right answer, given that there are possible joy-depleting side effects whether you do or don’t do what you should? Perhaps all you can do is minimize the likelihood of either guilt and shame, or annoyance and resentment. If all that you do adds up to 100%, wouldn’t it be great if 90% of the time, you are doing what you WANT to do? With the remaining 10%, there may be some things you HAVE to do (such as filing your income tax return annually), but what if only 5% of all that you do was stuff that you SHOULD do? Wow; you might have a lot more energy and fun in your life! This might be too ambitious a goal but it is worth moving in that direction, no?

And speaking of the word, “No,” that’s the topic of a future issue of Out on a Limb! More specifically, saying No to other people’s shoulds, and managing the reactions you might get. Stay tuned!

For the Should-ee

Notice what happens in any of the four examples above if you replace the word “should” with the word “could.” Do you notice it gives you a little bit more breathing room? Choice enters the equation. The more we feel like we are choosing what we do, the more likely we will find ways to enjoy it, and the less likely we will feel guilt, shame, annoyance or resentment. This suggestion is simple but potent. Try it!

To the Should-er

If you recognize a tendency to impose shoulds on others, try not to beat yourself up. Ask yourself why you are so invested in that person doing what you think they should do. Often, we should others when we want control over a situation where we are powerless. A lot of letting go could really help you, and it could improve your relationships, too! After all, what is the worst that would happen if someone doesn’t do what you want them to do?

Your December 2010 Prompts for Joy

Click here for a Hallelujah Chorus that you will not forget.

Click here to appreciate just how skilled your dentist is:

With thanks to Amber Sumrall and Cassie Murray for these links.


Joy-Gram for December 2010

Give yourself permission to NOT do one thing you feel you should do during the end-of-year holidays. Give yourself permission to DO one thing you really WANT to do, instead! Perhaps you really will have Happy Holidays, as a result!


Archives Now Available

To re-read or share past Out On A Limb newsletters, click here, or type the following url into your browser: http://www.mcscala.com/html/EZineArchives.html.

By no means do I have joy “figured out.” Please do not assume that I do! I write Out On a Limb as much as a meditation for myself in the ongoing pursuit of joy, as for you. I think this pursuit is a lifelong journey and that the full experience of joy is, at best, episodic. May we all have more episodes!


Martha Clark Scala, MFT • 721 Colorado Ave., Suite 201, Palo Alto, CA 94303 •

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